9 Things I Learned Growing Up in the Country (That I’m Applying to My Life in the Suburbs)
This is a generalization of my own experiences.
The older I get, the more I look back and appreciate my country upbringing.
There is something undeniably grounding about land, fresh air, old-fashioned values and hard work.
Since moving the suburbs of a big city upon getting married in 2009, I’ve often mulled over whether I’m a country-girl or a city-girl at heart.
Ultimately, I’ve learned to accept that there are going to be advantages and disadvantages to life anywhere. I don’t over-think it too much. I’ve decided that what matters is choosing contentment and following God’s leading wherever He puts me.
But I am also grateful for the lessons I learned growing up on a farm outside of a small town in rural Missouri.
And I’ve realized how much these roots influence my desire for a simpler life right here in suburbia. They apply to life anywhere.
Things I Learned Growing Up in the Country
1. Kids don’t need a bunch of manufactured toys.
In fact, rocks, sticks, heaps of gravel, shovels, wildflowers, woods and mud make great toys.
Oh, and brothers and sisters are pretty fun too.
There were often no neighbor kids nearby, so my siblings and I spent the summers gallivanting around the countryside together, wading in the creek, riding horses, creating elaborate hideouts in the woods, catching fireflies and playing hide and go seek among the hay bales.
We had toys of course, I didn’t grow up lacking anything (we were grateful for those in the winter), but in the warmer seasons we often preferred outdoor adventures, and we found hours of entertainment in simple things.
2. Kids are capable of more than you think.
In fact, they need opportunities for independence.
It’s hard for kids to become responsible, motivated, capable or hard-working adults when they’re babied. But it’s almost impossible not to baby them when we live in fear.
However, that’s not the country way.
From a now-parent’s perspective, I’m somewhat amazed at the amount of independence my siblings and I were given, especially as we got older. And that was nothing compared to the independence my parents were given as children.
Yet from the child’s perspective, it’s easy to see how good this was for me. We didn’t get hurt, we didn’t get into trouble. We rose to those occasions. It felt natural and, yes indeed, we were capable.
For more on this read: Don’t Underestimate Your Child’s Capabilities
3. The heart of hospitality is to serve others, not to impress them.
The country way is unpretentious. There is nothing but sacrifice and love involved in the open door and open table you find there. Making things fancy was not highly prioritized but it was shared with ease and generosity.
Company was to be served and enjoyed. Period.
I don’t know how many times friends, acquaintances or near-strangers who happened to be passing by were invited to join our dinner. The way my mom cooked, there was always plenty of food and a big farm table to serve it.
As us kids got older, there were many a holiday that stray friends or newly acquainted international students were welcomed in for meals and celebrations.
There was always room at the table for one more plate.
4. Kids can work.
By the time I was in upper-elementary school, I was spending weeks at a time during the summers helping with the family rental home business. We painted entire houses, deep cleaned them, scooped leaves out of gutters, weed-whacked lawns, …whatever we were told to do, that’s what we did. Because that’s what we were expected to do.
From around the age of nine, my younger brother was helping bale hay, work on farm equipment, fix fences, repair houses, etc. However, we did not work during the school year since our education was a top priority to our parents.
And we had plenty of leisure time too. In fact, that was the majority of our time, since my parents truly wanted us to enjoy childhood and focus on making good grades (my dad loves to remind me of all the days I slept in until 11:00).
Nonetheless, we also experienced hard work in seasons. That wasn’t too much to ask. It wasn’t fun, but it was good for us.
5. Fancy is overrated.
Fancy just doesn’t exist in the country as it does elsewhere. It’s a simpler life with simpler expectations.
And you know what, no one is the worse for it. Seeing both sides of the coin, I’m amazed by how little difference extravagance makes in one’s quality of life.
In fact, I can see how “fancy” breeds discontentment and lust for more, so we’re probably better off without it!
6. Extended family are a priority.
Growing up, extended family were valued and involved. We would often drive literally across the country to visit a collection of great aunts and uncles and second or third cousins.
There was an effort made for connection. There was a valuing of family over convenience that stands out to me to this day. There was an understanding that we should know each other –care about each other’s lives.
Because, no matter how removed by time, distance or relation, we’re still family, and that is pretty cool.
7. The family that eats together stays together.
Country-style or family-style dining, where everyone gathers around a table and passes dishes of food, is how we ate every meal… breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day.
And if someone couldn’t be home until later? We would pretty much wait for them within reason. Meals were at the center of family scheduling.
8. The home and family unit have a lot to offer.
Proximity limits involvement, as you can imagine.
So living in the country, you don’t do as many activities outside of the farm, home & church, especially during childhood. Life as a kid didn’t feel crazy. There wasn’t a lot of running around. There weren’t many scheduling conflicts to our frequent family road trips.
And we didn’t notice a lack there because “home” had a lot to offer us. A quieter life had a lot to offer us.
Instead my sister and I learned home arts, like sewing, gardening, canning and making a pie. My brother learned man-stuff. We spent time together. We played a lot.
9. To the faithful God shows Himself faithful (2 Samuel 22:26)
While I know there is caution in equating church attendance with our standing before God (we can’t earn His favor or our salvation in this way… not even a little), I have seen the value of faithfulness.
Country churches aren’t perfect. There are no flashing lights or large-scale productions to entertain. There are plenty of excuses not to go.
But the country way that I’ve experienced is a steely determination to stick out difficult seasons of life and simply be there, believing that is God’s desire.
The country way is faithfulness. Week after week, year after year. Taking the good with the bad and making the most of it. Loving one another. There’s a legacy in that.
And I’ve seen firsthand how God rewards this faithfulness, when done with a pure heart, overtime.
He is faithful to the faithful.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
Who else grew up in the country with a similar or different experience?
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